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What’s the Point? We Need to Embrace Checkpoints

Once again we are thrilled to have Neil Gupta as a guest blogger, I know we all can relate to this one, especially over the Holidays…


At least I got to enjoy the journey when I was little. The whole process was different, and it definitely helped that I could be a carefree child while my parents took care of the logistics. But now as an adult and living in a different era of safety, the thought of going to an airport gives me complete and utter stress. While I have taken it as a personal challenge to perfect my routine of getting from my car to the plane in the least amount of time, all the steps in between test my perseverance and patience (not to mention my germophobia).


  • First, I have to wait to catch the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport.
  • Then, I have the navigate around the cars and other travelers, pull my oversized luggage, and try to keep my kids close while making it to the ticket counter.
  • After that, I make my way to the security gate while mentally preparing to not sound nervous or guilty of anything.
  • Next, while smirking at the genius of my packing and choice of traveling outfit, I systematically take off my shoes and belt while simultaneously emptying my pockets for the X-ray machine.
  • Finally, I turn to a full grin and let out a big sigh while re-dressing myself on my way to the final stretch to the boarding gate. Checkpoint!

While I tend to get aggravated at checkpoints as if they are a complete nuisance, I know they are set up to save time and keep me safe. Just as checkpoints serve a vital role in the airport for travelers, they also serve as important processes in helping teams to be most effective.

I have been a part of many teams that do a great job in the early stages of a task by developing goals and action plans. They spend time and effort up front in setting the course to a destination with everyone committed to the plan, and then they leave the planning meeting ready to execute. Left to themselves, they look at their part in the plan, interpret their step, implement it, and then wait for everyone else to do their part. And, at the very end, they reconvene as a team only to find out that they fell short of the goal while pointing fingers at each other for not doing their part.


Effective teams understand the importance of checkpoints in project planning. When they develop their goal, they also build in checkpoints into their action plan.  Checkpoints are a great tool to ensure commitment, reflect on the progress, and revise the action plan as necessary.

In their action plans, effective teams build in checkpoints to monitor their direction in order to meet their goal. Here are “10 Tips for Effective Teams Embracing Checkpoints”:

  1. Checkpoints should be built into action plans prior to implementation.
  2. Checkpoints should be clear to all of the team members on what needs to be accomplished, who is responsible, and what is the measure for success.
  3. Checkpoints should determine whether previous action steps were accomplished.
  4. Checkpoints should collect data that determines whether the action plan is on track to meet the goal with the agreed future action steps.
  5. Checkpoints should have flexibility for contingency plans and the ability to revise the action plan as needed.
  6. Checkpoints should pinpoint areas of accomplishment to celebrate.
  7. Checkpoints should expose weaknesses in the plan with additional needs for professional development, supplies, personnel, or intervention.
  8. Checkpoints should include communication loops, which gather feedback for learning with the end users.
  9. Checkpoints should provide clarity with next steps on responsibilities and deliverables with data as evidence.
  10. Checkpoints should provide the feeling and evidence to the team that they are getting closer to the goal.

Once when I was heading back to Ohio from a trip, a flight agent discovered my airplane ticket was printed with the incorrect gate number. Had I not been stopped at a checkpoint, I could have gotten on a plane to Texas! Similarly, teams who build in checkpoints have the same opportunity to realize possible mistakes or potential problems in the future when they build checkpoints in their plans! So, instead of lamenting over checkpoints, embrace them and build them in to your team’s success plan!




3 for FREE Ed Resources 11/16

Our goal with the top 3 is to share resources that will help you with your work or to just have a wonderful week! As always, feel free to share them on Twitter or Facebook or good old email ?

Holiday time is here and keep in mind the processes we share can also be helpful around the Thanksgiving table. So we are sharing a short article of our own that focuses on communication.


Process: Text as expert is included in many processes. In using a short article, quote or video clip it can make meetings less personal and more focused on learning and collaboration.

Download (PDF, 387KB)

Article: The article “Five ways dialogue can save your meeting” will help your group learn the skills needed to truly collaborate.

Download (PDF, 748KB)






The Meeting Makeover

We are so excited to announce that Dr. Neil Gupta has agreed to be a guest author for our blog! We hope you enjoy his first entry as much as we did.

I’m Loving My Meeting Makeover!

3 Meeting Make-Over Adjustments for Success


Over the summer, I experienced two makeover opportunities! The first one came from a friend who came to visit me. She has a keen eye for home decorating, so I asked her to give me her feedback on areas in my home. After agreeing, she first asked me to show her everything – not just the areas I wanted her to see. So, I took her throughout the whole house, showing her the good and the bad.

As we went from room to room, she asked me what I liked about the room, what I didn’t, and what purpose or outcomes was trying to be achieved. While at first I thought it was awkward to state the home office was a place where I did paperwork, she did get me to question why I was holding on to two outdated printers and dried up ink cartridges littered in the corner of the room.

Part of me was nervous by this activity.

  • What if she didn’t like the areas I was most proud of?
  • What if her feedback reflected on me as a person?
  • What if she recommended me to scrap the whole house and move?

Admittedly, I had a great experience! Her questioning techniques allowed me to reflect and look at my house and view of the spaces in a whole new way. Through some modifications and a change in perspective, I was able to get much more from my home and am enjoying it even more.

My second makeover came from reflection with colleagues on meetings I ran last year. Similar to my friend helping me with my home, my colleague asked a series of great questions when I asked for feedback on the meetings:

  • Did you have a purpose for each meeting?
  • How did you determine whether the needs of the participants were being met through the agenda items?
  • How was it clearly communicated to the participants?
  • How did you monitor whether there was proper time for understanding, feedback, dialogue, and input?
  • How did you know whether people felt comfortable to take risks and share?
  • How did you determine whether there was common understanding on tasks and next steps?

As we reflected on the agendas, minutes, and informal feedback collected at the meetings, I realized that the meetings appeared to cause more work and more questions at the end of the meeting than before. In my attempt to show my leadership, the meetings focused on me talking and them listening. The information revealed that the participants needed to schedule more meetings in order to work on the work!

It wasn’t pretty, but I realized I had to overhaul how I structured the meetings. The questions and reflection helped me to implement “3 Meeting Make-Over Adjustments for Success” that helped to provide a better experience to our team and create the necessary benefits to create positive change.

  1. I Involved the Team. In my best of intentions to show myself as the leader, I realized that I was the one talking too much. As I reviewed the agendas from the previous year, my name was on most of the agenda items. I decided that, in order to be most effective, I had to create more opportunities for others in the room to speak and share. So, I am not asking for volunteers from the team to present and share.
  1. I Reduced the Need for Additional Meetings. As I reflected on the agendas, I noticed that I tended to talk about things the team would need to do in the future. It forced the team members to create action plans and have schedule additional meetings with others to get the work done. So, I am flipping the structure of the meetings by providing clear emails to share the information needed, and then bring the experts in the room to facilitate the work and understanding in a cohesive manner during the meeting.
  1. I Am Promoting a Focus on the Goals. My final take-away in the agenda autopsy was observing the fragmented agenda items from month to month. While it may be necessary to have some agenda items that are isolated based on a particular need or something that is timely to a situation, the majority of agenda items were disconnected from one another. My new goal is to use the organization’s goals as a filter in determining items to support and lead. Using the goals, I plan on creating agenda items to provide focus, depth, clarity, and support in accomplishing our goals.

Having the home makeover has made my home more enjoyable. I love inviting guests and sharing what makes it special. Similarly, overhauling my meetings has created a warm environment and allows for our team to be even effective in accomplishing our goals!